Have you ever been majorly pranked? I was in 2017 and it was the best thing that ever happened to me. It has changed the course of my life actually.
Day 1 – Arrival
Before arriving at Calgary international airport from Toronto, I thought I was meeting my brother Dean and sister-in-law Sue at Dinosaur Park for an extremely brief two day trip on our way to the Black Hills in South Dakota. My brother Dean had planned a prank for almost two years, the likes I will probably never see again. My sister-in-law Sue’s niece Kelly picked me up. I hadn’t seen her since she was a kid – maybe 30 or 32 years ago, so it was a great treat. We diddled around picking up stuff for Dean and Sue at Canadian Tire and then made the 2.5-hour trip to the park.
Coming over the prairie to the opening of the valley that is home to Dinosaur Park is astonishing. For a minute I had a slight worry that this trip back would turn out to be a disappointing bit of nostalgia. I was wrong, way wrong. The beauty of this place is timeless. If you can’t get inspired here well, you’re probably a stone.
Arriving at the campsite was confusing. Dean and Sue had this incredible set up – the camper; a screened-in tent, a double tent outside and a massive trailer with both their motorcycles. It seemed this was a lot of gear to set up here for two days and to take down to Black Hills I thought, but oh well – Dean and Sue are the most competent people I know when it comes to camping and wilderness stuff, so I trusted them completely.
When Kelly and I enter the camper, Dean gets me to sit down immediately to watch a very cryptic home-made video. All very mysterious. I didn’t get it. So, since I was too dense to figure out the clues in the video, Sue then gives us a little note pad that contains written clues for a treasure hunt. I was not such a willing participant, so I think they were a bit worried their devious scheme was not going to go over too well.
We went along with it, though. Kelly and I followed the clues until we reached the open-air amphitheatre where we found Rapp – a gorgeous metal sculpture of a raptor.
I learned from camp staff later that it isn’t a raptor at all – it’s more like an Albertosaurus.
Kelly and I were so excited with the find we didn’t pay attention to the next clue that was about a red wagon….so we started trying to carry this lug back to the campsite! Dean, amazed at our stupidity goes and gets the wagon, and puts Rapp into it. I think this must have been all the mystery and it is an awesome gift. I have no idea how I will bring it home to Victoria on the plane. Well, there will be time to figure that out. But this was not the end of the mysteries. There was a lot more.
We had this awesome dinner on this the first night. Salmon and prawns from Haida Gwaii, it was all so delicious. The weather was not too hot, either.
As we are visiting and chatting, I start asking about the plans for the trip, the logistics of getting to the Black Hills and about the clients that Dean is supposed to see in nearby Brooks. The story was that he and a fellow Rolfer were going to Rolf (a form of deep tissue and fascia realignment) the workers who had wrist problems from repetitive strain at the meatpacking plant. Seeing these clients was the only reason we were in the park. He initially told some hair-ball story about staying in the camper behind the Patricia Hotel. I was not having any of that! Not with being so close to the park. He finally gave in and had said we could stay, but only for two days.
I’m asking him how many guys he is going to work on etc. at which point Dean and Sue sit me down to explain a few things to me. With extreme patience, they lay out a new plan which involves them leaving the next day on their motorbikes to Manitoba to visit my mom and sister and her family, and I am going to stay at Dinosaur Park for two weeks on my own! No one, nada! I admit I was shocked and speechless – and I just kept looking at them, stunned, back and forth as though they were going to laugh and say they were kidding. But they were dead serious. To top it off, apparently, EVERYONE knew about this, including my friends and all reaches of the family. How they kept it a secret is beyond belief. But here I was – about to be on my own for the first time ever really. I just had to take care of the cat.
Dean and Sue then showed me all the things I needed to know about the camper, the stores of food they provided in the fridge, cupboards, and freezer, other supplies I may need etc. It was all overwhelming and exciting.
I couldn’t believe this was happening. I would be in the camp with no car and not too much internet either. Thankfully I had brought a goodish store of art materials, my Nikon and tripod etc., so from an art perspective, I was ready enough!
Thanks for hanging in for this story – it was more exciting than it sounds here, but it will help my frail memory.